Friday, February 5, 12:25 a.m.
Tall and tan and young and lovely the girl from ... well, White Plains, New York, to be truthful. But tonight I’m “The Girl From Ipanema,” circa 1964. I stride into Wynn in what I perceive as slow motion, my huge, fluffy, white, calf-skimming crinoline swishing against the white halter dress, a favorite from my ’50s/’60s Mad Men collection, the one with the yellow and blue flowers that’s nipped in tightly to emphasize that all-important tiny waist. Passing the poker room, players look up as I bat elongated lashes from behind seafoam-green, cat-eye rhinestone frames, and purse my cherry-red lips into a knowing smirk.
It took three hours and did more damage to my bathroom than the Atomic Age did to the desert to go back five decades tonight, to first get my hair straight, curl it just so, then pin it into the coif and flower now perched on my head. But as the casino-floor traffic parts ways to let this one-woman parade pass by, I relish every moment of their curious, rapt attention. It’s a feeling every woman should have at least once in her life, other than on her wedding day.
And when she passes, each one she passes goes a-a-a-h ...
Inside Blush, Ms. Redd (aka Pure cocktail server Jennifer Affronti) is holding court in preparation for tonight’s pinup girl contest. Also on hand for support: Miss Exotic World 2009, Kalani Coconuts—not the liqueur but the burlesque dancer and famed pinup model—as well as Tanya and Jan, owners of the Bettie Page Boutiques. All that’s missing are models Bernie Dexter and Vegas’ own Doris Mayday.
Though petite, Ms. Redd towers over me, thanks to higher hair (red as chemistry will allow and as her name would imply) and wedge heels. She fills out every curve of her black-and-leopard dress, her waist cinched in to display an ample bosom. For all that though, she’s the pinup ideal: sexy on the verge of fetish but never setting so much as one manicured toe over the line of good taste. “Pinup is seductive but not trashy,” says Ms. Redd. “There’s a very fine line.”
Affronti had been deeply involved in LA’s rockabilly culture before moving to Vegas nine years ago, then pretty much packed it away while working at the Bellagio, Wynn, Rehab and Pure. But a chance at a centerfold in Rod & Kulture Magazine a year ago brought her back to the scene, modeling for Pinup Girl Clothing and even accidentally being outed to her brother by a shop owner. “He had no idea about this part of my life,” says Affronti of her brother, XS general manager Brian Affronti. “And who wants to see their sister in lingerie?!”
As the contestants line up to be judged on personality, hair and outfits, we’re approached by one of Ms. Redd’s fans, she herself wearing a Pinup Girl Clothing dress. “You guys are soooo hot! I’m considering going lesbian just so I can get with one of you!” she coos, before adding, oddly, “Even though I’m saving myself for marriage.” I’m stunned silent—a rare thing. Ms. Redd turns her attention to the task at hand, mounts the bar in advance of the 13 ladies and is instantly bathed in red light.
The pinup contestants’ outfits range from the USO-inspired 1940s bullet bras and victory rolls and the typing pool of Mad Men’s Sterling Cooper, all the way to rockabilly’s tattoed evil twin “psychobilly” a la John Waters’ Cry-Baby and the Barbarellaa bombshells of the later 1960s. Two crowd-participation rounds later, it’s contestant No. 5 in her Bond-girl leopard bikini who (thanks to loudly cheering supporters) takes home the $2,500 in cash and prizes.
A mere observer, I had been rooting for darling raven-haired Mandy in the pink and black Bettie Page dress, who drove in from Lake Havasu just for the occasion. Tonight was a test run for a possible real rockabilly party during April’s Viva Las Vegas 13 rockabilly weekend at the Orleans.
But by 2 a.m. I’m the last pinup standing and my coif is wilting. “I’d have voted for you ...” says a tipsy man in his late 60s before being led away by a sober colleague. Blush marketing director Bill Kennedy finds a piece of skull jewelry on the floor and considers it intensely: “Either we’ve just has a pinup contest or Criss Angel was in here.”